It's being reported today that four Google employees will be charged with "defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data" in Italy. This all stems from a video posted to Google Video in 2006, which showed four teens teasing and harassing a boy with down syndrome. Google removed the video within a day, but by that point it had already been seen 12,000 times.
The prosecutors also think that because the video highlights the boy's disability, it could violate Italian data protection laws. Google has yet to receive official charges, but sources have told Reuters that the employees will be charged and expect them to face trial on February 3rd 2009. The company said it's worried about the precedent this could set for censorship on the internet, and I have to agree. At least one of these employees has never lived in Italy, and furthermore, the video was uploaded to a server in the US. But on top of all that, the bigger question is how can you punish these Google employees for something one of their users did? If they do get convicted it threatens YouTube, Google Video, and just about every site with user generated content. So even though making fun of the disabled is totally uncool (and despite my proud Italian heritage) I'm going to have to mildly scold Italy for this one: not cool Italy, not cool. [Reuters via PCWorld - Image via ian larson]